Louis Oliver had three interceptions, returning one 103 yards for a touchdown to tie an NFL record, as the Miami Dolphins crushed the Buffalo Bills 37-10 Sunday in a battle of unbeaten teams.
The Dolphins won for only the second time in their past 12 meetings with Buffalo and took over first place in the AFC East.
"We've had a lot of frustration, a lot of unhappy locker rooms here in recent years. This is big," Dolphins coach Don Shula said.
"This is a big sigh of relief," Dolphins defensive end Jeff Cross said. "This team in the past has played so well against us. I mean great one-hand catches, tremendous runs for big yards, the ball bouncing just right for them.
"Today, that happened for us, and they weren't able to just sit back there and pick and choose from their arsenal. They felt the urgency, the pressure. That was a nice switch to see."
On defense, Miami often used a two-man line, with four linebackers and five defensive backs. It was similar to the scheme the Giants employed in their Super Bowl XXV victory over Buffalo.
"Basically," said Tom Olivadotti, Miami's defensive coordinator, "it was get your best six athletes up front. That's what we did, making the run the first priority."
Buffalo had only 63 rushing yards, and Miami had six sacks in addition to forcing five turnovers. The Bills entered the contest averaging 38 points a game this season and 40 points against the Dolphins in their past three meetings.
"They gave us a good beating," Bills coach Marv Levy said.
The Dolphins also had a bit of offense. Dan Marino threw three touchdown passes, one to Keith Jackson, the All-Pro tight end who signed a four-year, $6-million deal with the Dolphins on Monday after being declared a free agent. Jackson, a former Philadelphia star, finished with four catches for 64 yards after missing all of training camp and the first quarter of the season.
Oliver's 170 yards in returns were the second-most in a game in NFL history. The 103-yard return matched Vencie Glenn, who returned an interception 103 yards for San Diego in a game against Denver on Nov. 29, 1987.
Oliver's first interception came on a play in which John Offerdahl ran into Jim Kelly as he threw the ball. That set up a 24-yard Marino-to-Jackson touchdown pass that broke a 3-3 tie early in the second period.
Later in the quarter, Marino escaped a fierce rush and hit Tony Paige with a 5-yard scoring toss for a 17-3 lead. But Kelly countered with a 16-yarder to Andre Reed just before halftime to make it 17-10.
Marino struck again on Miami's opening possession of the second half, hitting Bobby Humphrey from 9 yards out to make it 24-10.
Then came Oliver's big interception. The Bills were at the Dolphins' 5 and appeared set to score. But on third down, Oliver jumped over Thurman Thomas in the end zone, grabbed the ball and raced down the left sideline.
David Griggs' sack of Kelly pushed the Bills back on their next possession and forced a punt. The Dolphins then drove to a 43-yard field goal by Pete Stoyanovich. Stoyanovich added a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter after Oliver ended another Buffalo drive with an end-zone interception.
Kelly ruptured the bursa sac in his throwing elbow attempting to tackle Oliver on his return for a score. But Kelly, who had the elbow wrapped in ice after the game, said he didn't expect it to keep him out of the lineup.